Professor Richard Keyes passed away on Sept. 27, at the age of 85. In 1968, he was recruited to Fresno State (named Fresno State College at that time) to help launch the Black studies and the ethnic studies programs, where he also developed the first summer education program for high school students.
As the key proponent of the Black studies program, Keyes advocated for Black students to be taught in specialized courses, in such subjects as English, anthropology and physics.
In a paper titled “Lessons from the Past: A Brief History of Academic Freedom and Due Process at California State University, Fresno” (published in 2010), Dr. Paul D. Bush, professor emeritus of economics, describes the ensuing overreach of power by the University administration in the late 1960s:
“In the fall semester of 1969, Keyes, Head of the Ethnic Studies Program in the School of Arts and Sciences, hired Marvin X, a Black Muslim, to teach in the program. Although he had the full backing of Dean Dale C. Burtner in this hiring, an uproar occurred as some members of the faculty and like-minded individuals in the community vigorously opposed the presence of a Black Muslim on the faculty.
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